By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Whatchamacolumn: Mandates end, but masks still in play

Nearly three years of mask mandates mostly ended this week in Oregon when those requirements were eliminated for patients, workers and visitors in health care settings. It’s a relief for many, but also a time to consider restocking home supplies of decongestants and other cold/flu remedies in anticipation of more contact with respiratory pathogens.

Going back decades, I can’t remember a year when I didn’t suffer a couple of colds that occasionally got real irritating. In the first two years after COVID-19 hit us all in 2020, I don’t recall a single common cold, thanks no doubt to following mask mandates along with most other people. It’s been a year since Oregon dropped mask requirements in public places, and in that time I count just one common cold and my own mild case of coronavirus.

Oregon COVID-19 case-counts and related deaths have dropped precipitously in the first three months of 2023, although reports this week still showed 178 Oregonians hospitalized with COVID-19 including 27 in ICUs and eight on ventilators. It’s still not easy to forget that we’ve had more than 970,000 cases of COVID-19 in Oregon and nearly 9,500 related deaths … but too easy to forget that viruses still are a significant threat to our health.

COVID-19 cases have lapsed, but they remain among dangerous respiratory infections that include RSV and influenza. That point hit home this week in a quote from Willamette Valley Medical Center CEO Michael Mulkey, who told the News-Register about MVMC’s new “mask optional” policy:

“Our top priority continues to be protecting the health and safety of our patients, employees, and community. We continue to follow our standard operating protocols for managing infectious diseases that are in place year-round to help ensure the health and well-being of everyone who enters our facilities.”

Time will tell how much people have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. History suggests that such memories can be short, but perhaps more people will continue to don their favorite pandemic masks in appropriate circumstances.

Don’t throw those masks away, as medical facilities will have places and times and situations where masks are required, and significant rises in respiratory cases could trigger new facility-wide mandates. Plus, many people at high risk for severe respiratory disease, or who live with someone in that group, will continue to wear masks in contagious-prone situations.

Meanwhile, I’m looking up the top 10 companies in the decongestants marketplace as reasonable prospects for stock investments.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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